Bulgaria: The more Pirin protests, the greener the government

Written by on January 19, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria: The more Pirin protests, the greener the government

The protests against an expansion of the Bansko skiing resort into Pirin National Park in Bulgaria might be more than what they seem. At first glance, the protesters are taking a stand against fears that any new ski lift in Bansko might lead to the construction of new hotels in the park, which is a protected nature reserve.

As thousands protested in the streets of Sofia yet again on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his Cabinet assured the country how green they were.

Nino Dimov, Bulgaria’s Minister of Environment and Water, repeated his claim that the only thing which might happen in a so-called buffer zone between the resort of Bansko and Pirin National Park would be the construction of a cabin lift. That buffer zone represented only 2 percent of the park.

At the same Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, who is part of the radical right “United Patriots”, assured the protesters that “nothing but a new lift” would be constructed. Other than that, there would not be any construction in the National Park, since the law prohibited it.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said his government’s position on Pirin was “very clear, very precise and very green”.

Hristo Ivanov: “Juncker’s kisses will never replace the necessary reforms.”

Quite often, the government in Sofia has promised there would be no new hotels in Pirin. The number of times that “guarantee” is being given is an indicator of how nervous the Cabinet is getting about the protests on the streets, because they are about more than just Pirin.

To many participants, the plans in the National Park are a symbol for rampant corruption, and a lack of necessary reforms. One of them is Hristo Ivanov, a former Minister of Justice and the founder of the “Yes, Bulgaria!” movement, which just missed an entry into the National Assembly in the last elections. He rejected Prime Minister Borissov’s statement according to which the protesters were his “friends”.

“Borissov has one single natural partner and friend. He is (the controversial MP and media mogul) Peevski. They are indistinguishable and inseparable in politics and business.”

“Juncker’s kisses will never replace the necessary reforms”, Ivanov said. “Without reforms, Bulgaria will never be respected because everyone knows how corrupt the country is. Bulgaria will not be part of Schengen (…), Bulgaria will never be a real leader in the Balkan region, not only because it can not be a role model, but because it continues to be the most vivid reminder that the EU should not accept corrupt and dependent countries.”

PM Boiko Borissov: “Very clear, very precise and very green”.

Ivanov is convinced that “because of all this, people are protesting and calling for their resignation. The protests will only get stronger.” In part, Ivanov’s predictions might be based on wishful thinking. At the same time the protests have indeed gotten stronger since the beginning of the year.

On Thursday night, the participants blocked the central “Orlov Most” (“Eagle’s Bridge”) intersection again, after demanding a “resignation” in chants, in front of the Council of Ministers building.

Bulgarian National Television reported, apart from Sofia, there had been protests in 19 other Bulgarian cities and towns on Thursday, as well as in cities abroad. The protesters vowed to carry on until the Council of Ministers withdraws its Pirin decision.

Main photo by Kaloyan Yankov. Borrisov photo source: Video of cabinet meeting. Ivanov photo by “Yes, Bulgaria!”.


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